More than 2 million animals perish in Bolivia wildfires

Firefighters from Bolivia's army patrol an area where wildfires have destroyed hectares of forest at Rancho Grande village in Robore, Bolivia, September 24, 2019. (REUTERS/Edgard Garrido)
Updated 26 September 2019

More than 2 million animals perish in Bolivia wildfires

  • The fires devastated the Chiquitania tropical savanna in the east of the country
  • Environmentalists blame laws enacted under leftist President Evo Morales, who has encouraged burning of forest and pasture land to expand agricultural production

LA PAZ: More than two million wild animals, including jaguars, pumas and llamas, have perished in weeks of wildfires that devastated huge swaths of Bolivian forest and grassland, environmental experts said Wednesday.
The fires devastated the Chiquitania tropical savanna in the east of the country.
“We have consulted the biologists of Chiquitania and we have exceeded the estimate of more than 2.3 million missing animals in many protected areas,” Professor Sandra Quiroga of Santa Cruz University told AFP.
Latin American ocelots, and other wild cats like pumas and jaguars, as well as deer, llamas — and smaller forest animals like anteaters, badgers, lizards, tapirs and rodents — were victims of the fires, according to biologists investigating the scale of the damage.
Local media showed images of charred animal carcasses in the smoldering forests and birds fleeing to zones spared by the flames.
The fires, which have devastated more than four million hectares (10 million acres) since August, has completely destroyed the “primary forest” extending over 100 hectares in the Tucavaca reserve in the eastern Santa Cruz department.
“The forest is totally charred and the damage is irreversible. It will never get back to normal,” said Quiroga.
The eastern department of Santa Cruz has been the hardest hit of Bolivia’s nine departments since the fires began in May and intensified in late August
Bolivia in August enlisted special firefighting planes, a Supertanker Boeing 747 and a Russian Ilyushin, as well as helicopters, 5,000 firefighters, soldiers and police but the fires have still not been extinguished.
Environmentalists blame laws enacted under leftist President Evo Morales, who has encouraged burning of forest and pasture land to expand agricultural production.
The government attributes the blazes to dry weather and flame-fanning winds.


Texas court halts execution in high-profile case

A woman holds a sign during a protest against the execution of Rodney Reed on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Bastrop, Texas. (AP)
Updated 17 November 2019

Texas court halts execution in high-profile case

  • Millions of people, including US lawmakers and Hollywood celebrities Kim Kardashian and Susan Sarandon, have signed petitions supporting Reed

WASHINGTON: A Texas appeals court has suspended the execution of convicted murderer Rodney Reed — who has long claimed his innocence — in a case that has attracted widespread public attention and a celebrity-backed campaign.
Reed, a 51-year-old African-American, was sentenced to death in 1998 after being convicted by an all-white jury of the rape and murder of Stacey Stites, a 19-year-old white woman.
His execution by lethal injection had been set for November 20, but Reed says he did not commit the crime, and his lawyers and supporters say that evidence proves he is innocent.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles announced on Friday that it had “voted unanimously to recommend the governor grant a 120-day reprieve” to Reed, who had appealed for clemency.
The state appeals court then halted the execution later in the evening.
Millions of people, including US lawmakers and Hollywood celebrities Kim Kardashian and Susan Sarandon, have signed petitions supporting Reed.
Kardashian said on social media she was with Reed when he received news about the reprieve.
Although traces of Reed’s DNA were found in the victim, he has always maintained that he and Stites were secretly having an affair.
Reed’s lawyers say that evidence obtained after the trial points to another suspect — the victim’s fiance, Jimmy Fennell, a former policeman who later served a 10-year prison sentence for another rape.
“The strong evidence exonerating Mr.Reed and implicating Fennell continues to mount,” the lawyers wrote in the clemency petition lodged with the state’s Republican governor, Greg Abbott.
In the clemency request, they included a testimonial from a former co-worker of the victim who confirmed the affair.
According to another affidavit, a former prison inmate said he heard Fennell brag during a prison yard conversation about committing the murder.
Fennell has denied involvement in Stites’ murder.
The Texas board declined Reed’s request to downgrade his sentence.
His lawyers also have filed a petition with the US Supreme Court, seeking a stay of execution.